So here’s the “boiling hot take” (for all you Blind Boy fans in the audience) on our coughs and colds winter pandemic…
If you’re sniffling right now, chances are it’s not because some bacteria or virus is actually in your body wreaking havoc, it’s more likely that you were actually “sick” last week, and that the discharge of coloured gunk that’s piling up in the tissues in the bin is actually your own body fighting an invisible foe. Like a swordsman with a blindfold on, those white blood cells are just lunging wildly into the dark, having been triggered by the real invaders that came along 7 days ago.
Funnily though, your immune system wasn’t up to much when the actual attack happened, the weapon’s systems were all holstered, on standby, having a snooze with their feet on the desk. Enter Rhinovirus, and all hell broke loose - a 2 day full scale war ensued and, most likely, your body got the better of the viral invaders. Yes, yes, there are likely secondary infections, mostly bacterial, than can persist and get stuck in the phlegm your body produced to help clear the virus that was sitting on the side of your throat, hanging out like a delinquent on a street corner.
But the KEY thing here, is that when your symptoms are a groggy head, snotty nose, a chesty cough - the solution is not to go hunting for the guys that triggered the response. No, no they’re long gone. And in their wake they’ve left your body on hyper-alert. So the mucus keeps coming, and coming, and...you’ve been there.
On a quick aside - ever wonder what colours the mucus green? It’s actually hydrogen peroxide!! Yup, the stuff you bleached your hair with when you were 16 over the side of the bath...in fact it’s the fixative in all permanent hair dyes. But your immune system actually MAKES hydrogen peroxide, as it breaks down really bad stuff into less bad stuff, and then - as if by magic - your own body turns hydrogen peroxide back into water and oxygen. If your neighbour found out you could do that back in the dark ages, you’d be tried for witchcraft.
But enough of this prattle, what you guys want, need and deserve is a solution for the malaise, not a description of your symptoms, right?
When we look at the immune system we take it in 2 separate directions -
Our focus here is Short term immune issues - most often respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza - but also inner ear infections, skin infections, urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers etc
Next month, we will focus on long term immune issues (often auto-immune driven (i.e. the body attacking itself in some way)) - including Crohns colitis, hayfever/chronic rhinitis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS. etc
In short term immunity we take 2 views -
Prevention and immune enhancement
Vitamin C - Our favourites include Pukka, Higher Nature or Terranova - use natural or mixed source as it remains active as an antioxidant in the body for up to 14 hours, as opposed to the synthetic form, ascorbic acid, which may last only 1-2 hours
Probiotics - we recommend using low potency and broad spectrum probiotics for digestive and all around immune system maintenance. 80% of our immunity comes from our “microbiome” (the blend of bacteria that inhabit our GI (Gastro-Intestinal) tract). One of the primary roles of the microbiome is to work as messengers to tell our immune system whether foreign bodies are benign or if the immune system needs to activate. Great to recommend for kids especially as their immune system is under pressure learning about all the bugs that they are catching in school etc.
Vitamin D - a powerful pro-hormone that plays a key role in supporting our immune system’s response to infection - up-regulating response where appropriate and dampening response when not needed, as well as playing a role in modulating inflammatory response throughout the body (we recommend 1000iu from 4 years, and 3000iu for most adults throughout the winter) - Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so it’s really important that you take 1 month off after each month of dosing, to prevent it building up in your system
Echinacea - as per Vitamin D, echinacea has the ability to regulate/modulate the immune system’s response so that it is prepared for serious attacks and doesn’t waste immune energy when not necessary. Echinacea also possesses strong anti-viral activity in the root preparations. Most effective when taken right at the onset of a sore throat - just dilute, gargle, repeat>>
Olive Leaf extract - a powerful antioxidant (5x the effectiveness of vitamin C alone), olive leaf supports our own innate immune system activity, while fighting bacteria with its own anti-microbial action as the liquid coats your throat
Patrick Holford Immune C - 900mg of vitamin C with Blackberry, elderberry and ginger - blackberry and elderberry contain flavonoids and polyphenol antioxidants that both fight infection and support our own immune system’s output.
Kyolic Garlic - aging garlic both enhances its content of sulphur compounds and array of antioxidants that have powerful immune supportive effects, possibly enhancing intracellular glutathione levels through S-allyl cysteine content, thus raising the levels of one of our most potent free radical scavengers, Glutathione Peroxidase - that’s the one that makes the hydrogen peroxide and hence colours your, ahem, snot green...
Natures Plus KidZinc - contains olive leaf, vitamin C, zinc and echinacea - suitable from 4years+
Correction and anti-microbial action
Vitamin C - Use synthetic or chemical forms at cycling dose (500-1000mg every 2-4hrs for up to 4 days) it’s SO important to be aware of the potential issue with bowel tolerance with this approach, essentially it’s the only common side effect of excess vitamin C usage.
Dr Wolz Immunokomplex - Extremely high potency live yeast (saccharomyces cervisiae) supplement - contains 950mg beta glucans. These feed our macrophage (white blood cells) that travel through our body mopping up viruses and bacteria - use 10ml 3-5x per day for short term boost
Chaga - also rich in beta glucans, there are many compounds within medicinal mushrooms that we’re only discovering that are beneficial to health - use Four Sigma tea 1-2 cups per day for a short term boost
Oregano oil - rich source of carvacrols and thymols; supports white blood cell activity whilst possessing antimicrobial action of its own (similar to olive leaf, perhaps stronger hence more suitable for short term use)
Propolis - a powerful anti-viral and anti-oxidant that is used by bees to seal airgaps and prevent hive infection. Probably the most popular of all naturopathic anti-infective solutions in spain and central/eastern europe where it has centuries of traditional use.
A Vogel Plantago - very powerful decongestant for sinus and inner ear. Useful to support clearing for myriad conditions from tinnitus and inner ear infections to sinus infections and chronic rhinitis
Astragalus - one of our favourite of the anti-viral herbs, as it displays adaptogenic qualities too which means that it supports the body’s adrenal stress response which is especially useful if the after effects from your head cold seem to have bedded in for winter.
Ginger/Turmeric/Cayenne pepper - finally! We reach the point in my writing where we make sense of the insensible article's title. So now for a bit of counterintuitive inverse logic magic - when we're too hot, taking a spice cools us down...hmmm, says you with a deal of bemusement. Well yes, hot plus hot usually equals hotter, but not in this case. Ever wondered why chilli, spice and all things tongue-burning come from the hottest of countries? Well, it's because those foods act as a diaphoretic i.e. one that induces sweating, and what does the body do when it sweats? It cools the hell down. Magic. So have a look at our other article on potent spicy brews or grab a bottle of Jamu tonic from the shop if you want to trip down the turmeric pathway
Pukka Elderberry Syrup - great for a light cough, when symptoms are varied between sinus and chest, or as a preventative tonic. Elderberry acts as a superb lung tonic, and has anti-viral properties. This syrup also contains botanicals to clear congestion from the sinuses and liquorice to soothe inflamed mucosal lining in the throat - suitable for kiddies from 2yrs up
Vogel Cough Spray - for a chesty cough. Marshmallow soothes, mullein expectorates. Useful for travel, a tea containing this combination of these herbs in their loose dried form is more powerful, but much less convenient
Vogel Bronchosan - pine shoot extract which soothes a ticklish or irritating cough. Usually this is a sign of the start of a more serious respiratory infection, so always combine with vitamin C (dose above)
Vogel Ivy Thyme - for deeper chesty coughs with other symptoms of a cold or flu (sinus, running nose, fever etc). Ivy expectorates, thyme oils fight infection as they are expelled by our body through our lungs
Manuka Health Propolis Spray - a convenient combo of propolis, manuka honey and essential oils to fight infection and sooth a sore throat.
Comvita Manuka Mullein syrup - for a deep racking chesty cough
Comvita Manuka Marshmallow syrup - for a ticklish cough
Magic Tea potion - a great combination of loose dried herbs that is SO effective for fighting a heavy cold - 1tsp of each herb listed per cup boiling water, infused over 15-20 minutes at least, and sipped up to 6 cups per day in the short term
Marshmallow - demulcent - soothes mucosal lining
Mullein - expectorant - thins mucus to loosen cough
Yarrow - decongests chest
Elderflower - anti-viral and lung tonic
Plantain - sinus and inner ear decongestant